Recently, Tom Brady led the Bucs to an amazing Super Bowl win, and Jeff Bezos announced he is stepping down as CEO of Amazon later this year. We can learn a lot from studying the examples of these two men. All leaders eventually reach their maximum potential, but it seems like Brady might be an exception.
However, we see the example of people reaching their potential in sports all the time, but we don’t necessarily accept it in other parts of our lives.
There are certain people blessed with natural abilities, physical attributes, or the spirit to work hard, and that makes them rise up in sports. Then you get someone like Tom Brady who is a 43-year-old person who has won 7 Super Bowls and is probably the best of all time. However, that is one human out of all of us.
Whether we like it or not, we all have different competency levels. Brady’s competency level in football is far greater than my own. By the way, those competencies differ across the board. I may be better in leadership skills, but someone else may be better in musical ability. We all have different levels of competency, and we all rise up.
In the Peter Principle, which happens to many leaders, you get to a position where you have tapped out your potential, just like in sports. In life, we don’t like to talk about that. It’s okay in sports, but no one likes to talk about individuals who have maxed out their potential at their jobs. I like to say, “This is as far as they are going to go right now,” because we always want to leave room for that hope that people will get better later.
In my opinion, Bezos stepping down is a great example of Laurence Peter’s book, The Peter Principle. People do an incredible job, and then they get promoted. They keep getting promoted until they reach their greatest level of incompetence because skills needed in one job don’t necessarily correlate to skills needed in another job. I am not saying that Bezos rose to a level of incompetence. But he must have maxed out his potential.
What can we learn from Brady and Bezos? As a leader — and especially as a CEO and founder – one day, if you have success, your company may get too big for you to run. And the only way for it to keep growing is for you not to be the person running it. Jeff Bezos must have come to that point. In my opinion, he must have realized that his business would be better off with someone else in charge as CEO.
I see leaders and CEOs all the time who don’t realize that their businesses could grow faster and better without them. By the way, I was one of those people. In my last business, I capped out. I capped my maximum ability. As a business, we stopped having success and we stopped growing — not just because of me — but it was partially because of me.
It’s possible that Bezos would have gone longer and had more success if some of his personal challenges hadn’t gotten in the way. As mere mortals, CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs, it’s important that we recognize our personal lives and our personal challenges can also limit our ability to grow our businesses.
You never know what’s going to cause that cap to happen. Tom Brady hasn’t found his limit yet. He may play another year or two. However, Bezos, Bill Gates, and other leaders found their caps. We may not like having limits, but that’s why business coaching is so important, it helps us reach higher limits before we are maxed out.
Written by: Wade Wyant
Red Wagon Advisors, West Michigan Scaling Up Coach